By Brianne Goutal
Like most experiences in life, show jumping comes with its highs and lows. Having a bad run or feeling like you didn’t compete to the best of your ability can lead to disappointment. The counter to those lows is the incredible feeling after a win. That happiness and excitement is what pushes me to constantly practice more and challenge myself —it’s what keeps me from letting a bad round hold me down.
It’s accurate to say that I love winning. No matter what sport, all athletes are proud to call themselves winners — to be able to show off a blue ribbon or trophy that symbolizes their victory. Of course a large part of what we do as athletes, both professional and amateur, is about winning. It’s our ultimate goal and the reason we go into the show ring. The desire to succeed and beat our competition is what spurs our dedication, and a big win can reaffirm our passion for the sport.
In show jumping, winning is commonly a multi-step process with a jump-off following the initial round. You can have a great first round but mess up in the jump-off and blow it, which can be stressful. I keep myself calm for jump-offs by reminding myself that going clear in the first round is the real victory. Honestly, it’s the most exciting part of a competition, in my opinion. The jump-off and the win — though they’re the end goal — are really the bonus moments!
The more important the competition, the more exciting the win. Sentimental importance attached to certain shows also makes a win even more memorable. For instance, winning the American Gold Cup is one of my biggest achievements, not only because of how prestigious the competition is, but because it’s essentially in my backyard. Winning at home made it even more special. The wins I had during the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival were also extremely rewarding because the best athletes in our sport compete in Wellington. I had two wins back to back in the same weekend, which was thrilling!
The horse I compete can also have an effect on the significance of a win for me. Winning with a difficult horse is gratifying because it makes me feel as if all my hard work has paid off. I always love winning with an old horse, such as Onira, because every win seems more significant with time. We’ve been teammates for so long that it feels extra special to be able to share those experiences. Winning with a young horse is rewarding for a different reason: satisfaction in knowing that I’ve been training that horse successfully.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of winning. I’d say pride and excitement come to mind in the immediate moments after a win, followed by gratitude for my team, who works as hard as I do for each result. A win for me is really a win for us all, and of course we also share in the celebration afterward. My favorite way to celebrate a big win is to have a team dinner. We always have a great time, and everyone is in high spirits following a victory. We allow ourselves to relax a little and revel in the win before we get back to working hard the next day and start it all again!